Jessie Cottman Smith
Ask Jessie Cottman Smith about venerable Frederick Douglass Library on the University of Maryland Eastern Shore campus and she responds, proudly, “It’s my baby!”
Smith, a Somerset County native, is a 1950 graduate of what was then Maryland State College. After working as a librarian and teacher at Worcester High School for 15 years, Smith went “back home” to Maryland State in 1966.
She initially worked in the old campus library and then moved into Douglass, where she was a fixture until her retirement in 1998. She holds the distinction of being UMES’ first Dean of the Library.
The fifth of nine children, Smith dropped out of school in 1947 and went to work so she could save up enough money to return to college. She eventually received assistance and graduated three years later.
That is probably why she and her husband, Morris, feel so strongly about giving back to the university. Several years ago, the couple established an endowment – the Jessie C. Cottman Smith and Morris B. Smith Frederick Douglass Library Fund – and they faithfully grow it with ongoing contributions.
“Had it not been for UMES, I would not be where I am today,” Smith said. “It is unthinkable for me not to give back. Where I was helped by others, I would like to help others.”
The Smiths are seen often on campus and routinely attend functions throughout the year, from the annual Gala to commencement ceremonies and alumni events. Smith is a member of the Tri-County Alumni Association member as well as a Life Member of the National Alumni Association.
“It is my duty to give back to the institution that gave me so much for so long,” she said.
The special exhibit room on the second floor of the Douglass library was named in her honor in April 2011. The festive event attracted a large turnout, including members of her extended family.
“We are grateful to Jessie and Morris Smith for their faithful commitment to UMES,” said Veronique Diriker, UMES’ Director of Development. "We are forever grateful for your generosity and the spirit with which they give!”